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Brexit deadlock – Johnson or Corbyn – who we should trust less?

Although it has been almost three and a half years since the EU membership referendum, we are nowhere near finding a solution to solve the parliamentary deadlock. Recent proposals for a snap election seemed to be growing in popularity, especially among the Conservative party members. New poll analysis, however, suggests that this will not solve anything at all. Although support for candidates is shifting in some constituencies, society is as divided as it was during the referendum campaign.  New polls indicate that if there was an early general election, we would likely end up with another hung parliament. The Tories are predicted 317 seats, Labour 237, SNP 52, and Liberal Democrats 22 – none of the partied would gain a majority.

Both the current Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn struggle, not only with securing a majority in parliament to push their Brexit proposals through, but also to win support in their parties. Even the smallest miscalculation can cost their careers: witness the situation that befell former Prime Minister Theresa May – her three attempts to secure a deal in parliament ended with a massive defeat. This debacle included a catastrophic loss when her party turned against her, and parliament rejected her deal with a majority of 230 – something totally unprecedented in the history of parliament. She was forced to resign later in June.

Boris Johnson’s position on Brexit, for a long time seemed to be transparent. He campaigned to leave the European Union and claimed that the UK should leave the EU on its own terms. Deal or no deal, as he hammered away endlessly. This approach won him considerable support from the hardline Brexiteers.

He voted against Theresa May’s deal twice in January and March only to support it three weeks later despite the lack of significant changes in the document.

After becoming Prime Minister, he said that he would never agree for a Brexit extension in October, proclaiming he would rather die in a ditch. He also used war-like vocabulary to describe the Benn Act, which requires him to seek an extension in Brussels in case no deal can be agreed until October 19, calling it a surrender act. After parliament prorogation, which was declared unlawful by the Supreme Court, Johnson slightly shifted his tone, assuring all that he will obey the law. However, he also repeated that the government would leave the EU on October 31 with or without a deal. How the prime minister wants to do it without breaking the law remains unclear. An investigation conducted by the BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg revealed that there might be loopholes in the act and the government can interpret it in many different ways. As yet, no official comments regarding this matter are forthcoming from Downing Street.

Boris Johnson recently refused to promise that Northern Ireland will leave the customs union, despite criticizing the former prime minister for the so-called ‘backstop’ arrangement in September last year. He argued at that time that it would make the UK a ‘vassal state’ of the EU. The ‘backstop’ proposal was supposed to be a temporary customs arrangement between the UK and the EU after Brexit until a new permanent deal is in place between the two. At first, the backstop was supposed to be applied to Northern Ireland only. This idea was later rejected by the DUP and the former Prime Minister Theresa May, as they argued that the arrangement which imposes different regulations on Northern Ireland would pose a threat to British unity.

The Labour Party, on the other hand, gained much support from young people in the last general election, many of whom thought that the party could halt and scrap Brexit altogether. Sure of the party’s pro-European credentials, they expressed huge approval for its current leader Jeremy Corbyn, jubilantly chanting his name during party rallies. The reality, however, turned out to be somewhat different.  Party members officially determined their policy on Brexit just recently during the party conference on September 23, which ended under a smog of scandal. A vote on whether to campaign for remain or a second referendum was spread almost equally, and it was difficult to judge which side won based on a hand vote. A request for a card vote was later rejected, which left many party members deeply frustrated. Some of them pointed out that they were ashamed of the party’s refusal for a democratic vote. Another expressed  dismay that they  are in third place behind the Liberal Democrats after a position to campaign for a second referendum within six months of a general election won instead of remain.

In July, when interviewed by Sophy Ridge, Jeremy Corbyn said that in September, he is going to look at the situation in parliament and decide whether to push a motion of no confidence in the government, which could pave the way for a snap election. He also promised that he would support such a motion if it was put down by the government, arguing that the prime minister lost the majority, and cannot win votes.

Later in September, he voted against his earlier stance and opposed Boris Johnson’s motion calling for a general election claiming that it would risk the country crashing out of the European Union without a deal on October 31. He also refused to support such a motion until Johnson seeks an extension in Brussels. This argumentation was met by harsh criticism from the prime minister, who retorted that the opposition refused to give people a chance of an earlier vote as it is too scared of public opinion.

Finally, when interviewed by Andrew Marr just a day before the party conference, Corbyn refused to answer an obvious question on whether he would support and campaign for his deal if he became  prime minister and was  at the helm of negotiations with Brussels. Instead, he gave vague answers, continually repeating that he would put the final decision to the British people and ensure that the UK has a trade relationship with Europe.

When comparing both of the leaders, a sad conclusion emerges. We ended up with two untrustworthy bellowers who seem to put their careers in front of the interests of the country. After Theresa May’s resignation in June, Boris Johnson was elected with a strong mandate of Tory members and  proposed as a tough-minded leader who, unlike misses May, campaigned for leaving the EU and leaving it whatever the outcome of the negotiations. All of this hubris devolved to colossal failure as, although tough in language, Johnson is weak and inconsistent in his actions. He refuses to give straightforward answers at the same time, blaming the opposition parties for his unsuccessful negotiations with the EU bloc. Such refusal to answer questions also seems to be a dodgy strategy of Jeremy Corbyn, who is unable even to say whether he would vote for his own deal if he negotiated one. His views on Brexit are generally nebulous. He refuses to give a clear stance on whether the UK would be better off in the EU or outside of it. Instead, he repeats his mantra that we should avoid a no-deal Brexit scenario as it would be detrimental for businesses and trade unions in the country. He maintains that the public should decide whether they want to stay in the EU or leave with a deal. But did not they already decide?

A recent poll conducted by The Independent found that the majority of Britons do not trust the prime minister as 54% were dissatisfied with his performance in September. An IPSOS poll is even more disastrous for Jeremy Corbyn, as it revealed that he has the lowest leadership satisfaction rating for any opposition leader since 1977. An overwhelming majority of 76% of Britons said that they are dissatisfied with the job he is doing.

A question which of the leaders should we trust less remains open. One fact is clear – their record on public trust is catastrophically low.


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